The perfect blend of Southern hospitality, mountain town ruggedness, and bohemian charm makes Asheville, North Carolina, a must visit. From hiking trails to drum circles to gallery openings, there is something for just about everyone—and anyone else can go to Kansas.
Senior Travel Editor, Amanda Stuermer
Asheville is the foodie capital you may not have heard of—yet. Imagine the perfect meet-cute between generations-old family farms and innovative young chefs specializing in global cuisines.
A few restaurants not to miss are Cúrate for mouth-watering Spanish tapas, Cucina 24 for an inspired twist on an Italian eatery that uses ingredients found in the mountains of the American South (that somehow more than just works), Gan Shan West for Asian-inspired dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, and Rhubarb for food that straight up celebrates Appalachian culture from local farmers and makers to scratch-made biscuits like your granny used to bake.
It may be known as a brewery town, but Asheville’s bar scene is quickly coming into its own. Battery Park Book Exchange is a combination champagne bar and used bookstore. Books and bubbles in one place? Count us in.
Cultivated Cocktails is home to Asheville’s first proper distillery to distill gin and rum since Prohibition. Enjoy a libation in their trendy space on Page Ave. and purchase a specialty kit to make your own curated concoctions at home.
Speaking of Prohibition, Top of the Monk is a pre-Prohibition-themed lounge where no detail, from the shape of your ice to their housemade bitters, is overlooked—and the rooftop patio provides a sophisticated ambiance to take it all in.
Another rooftop classic is The Montford Rooftop Bar. Stop by for a coveted sunset view overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Trust us, you won’t be the only ones. We recommend making a reservation.
Play us some mountain music! The Orange Peel Social Aid & Pleasure Club opened in 2002, and has been named by Rolling Stone as one of the top five rock clubs in the country. The list of artists who have played there is as diverse as it is long, including Bob Dylan, Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Dave Grohl, Lou Reed, Lauryn Hill, and Jack White.
The Grey Eagle is Asheville’s longest-running (and most beloved) all-ages venue and has hosted over 10,000 different bands and artists, including the Avett Brothers and Band of Horses. They also serve tacos, which gives them bonus points in our book. Located in the historic River Arts District along the French Broad River.
The Salvage Station provides the quintessential outdoor music experience. Be sure to see who they’ve got booked from nationally touring headliners to up-and-coming acts. To be honest, you can find music, particularly bluegrass, just about anywhere you look in Asheville, from music venues and dive bars to street buskers and drum circles in Pritchard Park.
The River Arts District is Asheville’s creative center. The vibrant neighborhood was once a mill area. Converted warehouses and industrial buildings now house galleries, studios, cafés, and shops. You can easily spend an afternoon art gazing. Over 200 artists are located in 25 buildings in a one-mile radius. Pick up a map at any of the studios to help you find your way. Looking for something a little more on the quirky side? We’ve got you covered.
Asheville is also home to the Asheville Pinball Museum, Asheville Mystery Museum, and Antique Car Museum, and there’s the Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum down the road in Brevard, which features Elvis- and Marilyn Monroe–themed trees.
Ideally situated in the southernmost stretches of the Appalachian Mountains, some of the oldest mountains in the world, Asheville is home to a variety of Instagram-worthy hikes. The Moore Cove Falls Trail is a 1.2-mile, easy-like-Sunday-morning sort of hike that meanders through lush greenery and over creeks to a wooden platform looking out at a spectacular fifty-foot waterfall (pro tip: you can also go behind the waterfall).
Mt. Pisgah Trail, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is an iconic 2.3-mile trek through velvety green forests and views from the summit’s observation deck that are simply outstanding. The Graveyard Fields Trail is a 3.3-mile loop through tunnels of gnarly-branched rhododendron and lush fields to several tumbling waterfalls. Other hikes well worth mentioning include the Mount Mitchell Summit, Black Balsam Knob, and Looking Glass Rock. BIKES
If you like to pack a bit more adrenaline into your outdoor pursuits, the Blue Ridge wilderness surrounding Asheville provides endless opportunities for world-class mountain biking. The Pisgah National Forest graciously offers up more than 300 miles of trails. It’s become a favorite mountain bike destination for those looking for technical rides, steep climbs, and woop-inducing descents.
Bent Creek Experimental Forest is just 15 miles from town. Locals refer to it as “Pisgah Lite” but the Bern Creek Epic Trail still provides 20 miles of single and double track and includes Green’s Lick, a heart-pumping two-mile downhill that should be on any mountain biker’s bucket list. Looking for a smoother ride? Asheville is blessed with equally epic road rides.
Our favorite is the Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. You’ll start right in downtown, wind north through the historic Montford neighborhood, follow along the French Broad River, and then begin your climb up the Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. After about a dozen or so miles (the scenery is so pretty you’ll lose count), you’ll descend back down to the Blue Ridge Parkway and make your way back down to Asheville.